Today we revisit the Independent India’s 7th Olympic Medal. India in sports have not been a great country if we consider the Olympic Games, the largest & greatest sporting platform to be for sportspersons and teams. India, as a country, have only won 28 Olympic Medals till date with 5 of these coming in the pre-independence era.
With this, every performance that ended at 4th place becomes good and the 28 medals India won become grandeur. Here, we discuss a lowly Bronze medal performance of India in the era of their dominance, its first Bronze medal in field hockey that came after 7 gold medal and a silver medal. Here, we talk about Independent India’s 7th Olympic Medal.
The Era India ruled
If I say that Major Dhyan Chand was the greatest sporting hero of our country then it wouldn’t be wrong. In an era when practicing the skills of hockey sticks was not so easy, the great Dhyan Chand had developed a way to be inch accurate on his target hitting, i.e. goals. He employed used/waste bicycle tyres to create a goal to practice target hitting on. While this doesn’t amplify his legend, his goal numbers do.
There’s one incident when he hit a goal and it didn’t go into the goal post. He right away went to the match referees with a claim that the goal size was small. The goal post was measured after that and he was found to as correct as his prowess with hockey stick. The Hockey wizard got the pre-independence era nation to a hat-trick of Olympic Gold medals before the eruption of World War II which got 1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics cancelled.
In 1948, India came to the London Olympics as an Independent nation, and in a country which the nation was besieged by. India won the gold medal and it started another hat-trick of gold medals at the Olympics with Balbir Singh Dosanjh being the top goal scorers for India in two of these three, and a captain in third.
The era also saw rise of Leslie Claudius and Udham Singh Kular who would go on to be the record holders for participating in 4 Olympics and 4 Olympic medals. Apparently the two have same colors of medals (3 Gold Medals and a Silver), though the former got his first in London Olympics 1948 whereas the latter got his last at the Tokyo 1964 Summer Games.
Into the Mexico City 1968 Summer Games
When India came to the Mexico City in the 1968 Summer Games, they had 8 Olympic medals coming from the sport, 6 being on the trot (a record). They had a legacy to maintain and to take forward. Barring a silver medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, every appearance of India at the Olympics had yielded a gold medal.
Expectations were high, though last few years had seen rise of neighboring Pakistan into the world stage, previous three Olympics edition had seen the title clash between the neighbors, with Pakistan prevailing once (1960) in the competition of hockey skills.
The Indian team was Prithipal Singh (c), Gurbux Singh Grewal (c), Rajendra Christy, Ajitpal Singh, Balbir Singh Grewal, Balbir Singh Kular, VJ Peter, Harbinder Singh, Gogi Singh, Tarsem Singh, Munir Sait, Krishnamurty Perumal, Harmik Singh, Jagjit Singh, Balbir Singh & Inam-ur Rahman. The team had two players named as Joint Captain; Prithipal Singh who was the top scorer of the Tokyo 1964 Summer Games and Gurbux Singh who captained India to Asian Games gold in 1966.
Prithipal Singh was the highest goal scorer for India straight into the second Olympics as he scored 7 out of 23 goals from the tournament. India during the course of the tournament played 9 matches, winning 7 and losing two including the semi-finals against Australia who would go on to play the tournament final against Pakistan, the eventual Champions. The tournament also saw two siblings appear for the third time for India in Olympics after Dhyan Chand & Roop Singh in 1932 & 1936 Summer Games. They were Gurbux Singh Grewal & Balbir Singh Grewal.
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